A festival devoted to Teletext art is set to open in Berlin

Fancy seeing Lindsay Lohan in Teletext? The International Teletext Art Festival has you covered

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Lindsay Lohan's Mug Shot Kathrin Günther

Who misses Teletext? The iconic information service left British television screens in 2012, but that hasn't diminished its popularity in other countries. One Helsinski artist, Juha van Ingen, is helping to resurrect the dying medium for the International Teletext Art Festival in Berlin, featuring artists who have used the minimal aesthetics and limited possibilities of Teletext to create what resembles early net art. 

Created in the early 70s by British computer scientist John Adams, Teletext became a staple method of information retrieval for people all over the world. Think of it as the older and less agile cousin of the internet: a place where information, news and games existed in an aesthetic that remains instantly recognisable  – at least to people who used it regularly before the world went online. 

We spoke to van Ingen, a member of the Finnish art network FixC Cooperative about how working with Teletext turned from a joke into something serious, or at least, something serious enough to warrant making Lindsay Lohan's mugshot into.  

Two is better than one by Nadine Arbeiter
Two is better than one Nadine Arbeiter

Dazed: What do you find interesting about Teletext and what persuaded you to use it as an artistic medium?

Juha van Ingen:  We had a meeting with my colleagues from Helsinki and we were thinking of fun ways of expanding our artistic practises. Somebody brought up Teletext. The thought made us laugh at first but later on as we had a chance to use a Teletext editor in YLE-TV (the Finnish broadcasting corporation) we started to get really interested.

Are there any other retro-tech mediums that you like using?

Juha van Ingen: I have worked with various retro/low-tech formats including AMIGA 500, VHS, GIFs or HTML. I started working with Teletext as late as 2011.

What do you like most about working with Teletext?

Juha van Ingen: One of the best things about Teletext is that you can't really just convert your other art into Teletext. You have to do it the Teletext way. To make art with 24 lines with 39 characters each, and to be limited to six colours plus black and white can be challenging. On the other hand almost anything you do in Teletext looks good. The downside of the medium is that it is almost impossible to get Teletext Art broadcasted. Fortunately Matti Rämö at YLE (Finnish television channel) liked the ideas we had and gave us a possibility to broadcast works and make the International Teletext Art Festival ITAF 2012 possible.

1914 The Teletext Engine by Dan Farrimond
1914 The Teletext Engine Dan Farrimond

What's the best place to see Teletext art?

Juha van Ingen: The best place to experience Teletext art is of course home. The first festival we held was in Finland, but on a small scale. and now 14th August starts the ITAF2014 in ARD text, ORF teletext, Swiss text and ARTE Teletext (four different programmes of Teletext). Last year we had over 1,000,000 viewers in ARD and ORF alone so I believe Teletext art has never been this big during the 40 years of Teletext's existence.

Teletext service got taken off UK air in 2012, do you still have it in Finland?

Juha van Ingen: We have Teletext still alive here, although unlike the UK service, Finnish Teletext never had games and it is mainly used for news, sport results and weather. But it is still very popular which is pretty amazing with internet around.

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